Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rightly-Ordered vs. Wrongly-Ordered Desires

This post came from a few different conversations I have had over the past few days. Something that American evangelical Christianity is largely not talking about is whether and to what degree we will accept the idea of those who identify as both Christian and LGBT+. Now, strictly speaking, we arehaving this conversation. But we’re missing one or more key points of discussion, and it is to these that we now turn (over two separate posts).

First, consider rightly-ordered and wrongly-ordered desires. To illustrate this, we’ll initially look at another kind of right order. Suppose a war veteran has lost a limb (say an arm). This war veteran lost his arm through no fault of his own; he is not culpable for his state of having lost that limb (he lost it in battle and not through negligence or self-harm). Yet there is something wrongly ordered with his body (not “wrong” in a moral sense, but in an intended sense); something is not the way it was supposedto be. It doesn’t make them any less of a person, nor is the veteran blameworthy in any way.

Something similar can go on with desires. Let’s pick a desire that most everyone would say is unhealthy or wrongly-ordered: pedophilia. Let’s suppose someone came to you and said he identified as a “Christian pedophile,” albeit a non-practicing one. We would recognize, even if he had done nothing to cultivate this desire, that this was wrongly-ordered; it isn’t the way things were meant to be.

In the same way, when someone says they are a non-practicing Christian homosexual, we should recognize that even if this person’s desires are not directly chosen, or even indirectly chosen (say, cultivated by watching pornography or something), these desires are wrongly ordered; they are not the way God created us to be. This doesn’t mean the person is culpable for their desires, nor does it make them any less of a person made in the image of God. But it does mean we ought to be careful in celebrating or even “normalizing” a kind of “Christian homosexuality.” 

In C.S. Lewis’ argument from desire (check it out via Google), the idea is that basic desires have a fulfilment in the natural world. I would expand this (and I think this was Lewis’ intention anyway) to rightly-ordered desires. If there is a rightly-ordered desire, there is a right way to fulfil it in the natural world. The rightly-ordered desire for sexual union can be fulfilled in the right context of marriage between a woman and a man. If we do not distinguish between rightly and wrongly-ordered desires in the cases of Christian homosexuals, we will be only a half-step away from arguing for same-sex marriages (albeit monogamous ones).

We must love our brothers and sisters who have these desires. And we (who do not have this struggle) must be willing to admit we cannot understand their experiences and temptations specifically. And we must find a way to have these people be full members of the body of Christ, just as every believer, wherever they find themselves, should be—with fully biblical and orthodox views, as this is the way life was intended to be. We must also have an eschatological view, as Jesus Christ’s return and kingdom is what will set everything right. In the end—after the kingdom, resurrection, judgment, and all—all of our tears will be wiped away. All of our longings and experiences will be fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. May he truly come quickly. 


  1. Great post Randy!

    What would you say about professing Christians who have a homosexual orientation and openly practice it? Are such people actual Christians?

    How would this relate to professing Christians who are living with their boyfriends/girlfriends? That is, those having sex out of marriage? Those who actively watch pornography? Basically, any professing Christian who practices sexual immoral behaviors?

    1. Sorry for not replying to this, man! :) If they openly practice it, without anything bad in their conscience, it seems they are unregenerate. Thankfully, I don't have to decide or figure it out, but it does seem that way based on Scripture. (The text speaks to homosexuals not inheriting the kingdom, but this wouldn't refer to orientation, as that would be anachronistic. Nor would it refer to someone who had ever engaged in such acts. Rather, it would have to be someone whose defining identity was in those acts--or an open practitioner.)

      People involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage are sinners also, of course. And adulterers are in very deep trouble indeed, without the forgiveness of Christ. If they are unrepentant, they too would stand in pretty hot water.

      If they [anyone] practice this behavior, but are repentant, the grace of God covers all. Praise the Lord!


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